Sunday, 28 June 2020

Online exercise classes for those of us with cancer

Jo Lawrence cartoon
Regular blog readers will know that I was angry to discover about the impact of exercise on cancer because no one in the health service had shared that - it was many months after my diagnosis that I learnt it through my own research and a friend. Of course I was also delighted to know as I could take more action but why on earth are we not told when the impact is so big? 

Anyway it was through the Next Steps programme in Gloucestershire that I learnt I had not being doing enough exercise - see blog here (i). This led to me to start understanding the importance of exercise - see my blog here (ii). Since then I have been involved with other folks locally to try and change that situation (iii); working with local Councils, Macmillan and others to try and increase awareness. Sadly lockdown put a complete stop on all that although we have still been plotting ways forward.

Free online exercise

I joined the Stratford Park Cancer Exercise class over a year ago now - and some have said, why do you need a cancer exercise class, why not any class? Well the truth is that, particularly if you have had surgery or chemo, then you need a tutor (or should that be instructor?) who understands, knows what to look out for and which exercises are helpful. It is also good to be in a group with people who understand some of what you have been through. 

Some exercise tutors won’t take people with cancer because of potential complications. However of course, I'm sure there are many exercise groups that could and do work for people with cancer. Anyhow the class has been running each week and was so popular, that with the support of the District Council, a second class had just started when lockdown came along. 

Well the good news is that for the last month or so the class has gone online and there we are all on Zoom getting sweaty and puffed out. It has been a great way to ensure I do more than just rebounding, walking, gardening or whatever. If you are interested in learning more have a look at our website with details of how to self-refer. I think there are still places in the online group: 
We also have a Facebook page:

You can also self refer to this class or can be referred by your local health professional at:

Update 29/06/20: Since the 18th May 2020, we have been offering our Healthy Lifestyles #Stayinworkout classes for FREE. Starting from next week Monday 6th July 2020 we will be charging £2.00 per person per class. In order to make this transition as easy as possible for everyone to continue to participate in the classes, we have introduced a Healthy Lifestyles Class Pass. You can purchase your class pass online for £20.00, this will give you 12 classes for the price of 10 classes - for details please visit

Gordon Best - Stroud class tutor
What exercise?

Well to get an idea of the class our tutor, Gordon Best has kindly allowed us to reproduce his ‘routine’. These change each week but are a mix of mobility and strength exercises:

Wigwam Cancer Forum focuses on exercise

I have mentioned that in the last month I have started working a few hours a week for the integrative, national cancer charity, Yes to Life, on their Wigwam Cancer Support project. The Wigwam name comes from the idea that people lean into support one another. One of my roles is setting up online Wigwam Cancer Support Groups (iv) but the other key role is to establish a series of free online Forums. 

One of our recent ones was with Lizzy Davis; now an Independent Cancer Exercise Specialist but previously a nurse working in oncology. Her talk and answering questions was great; hugely knowledgeable but also great at supporting us to think about how we can introduce more exercise into our lives. She said over 180 things happen in our body when we exercise and that ‘movement is medicine’ - but how do we know the right dose? 

Clinical trials are on-going but it is clear, it is important to break up the sedentry sitting for hours at a desk and at least 150 mins of brisk walking a week. Lizzy also shared that it is key to do two or three muscle mass exercise sessions per week using the whole body. It is also cvlear that exercises must be fun and become part of everyday routines. She says lots more and you can tune into the recording of the zoom on the Wigwam website. Well worth a listen

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